Time To Walk The Walk

So this is it. Squeaky bum time. Tuesday sees England’s most import ODI for years. It might even be our most important ODI since the 1992 World Cup final. Lose tomorrow and we’ll be facing humiliation all over again – the humiliation of being tournament favourites, playing at home, and not even making it to the semi finals. So much has been sacrificed for this event: the county championship has been sidelined, the test team is somewhat in the doldrums, and there are few quality first class batsmen coming through. And with The Hundred relegating our domestic 50 over cricket into a development competition from next season, this might well be our only chance to win a World Cup for the foreseeable future.

The stakes therefore couldn’t be higher folks. Lose tomorrow and the ECB would’ve frittered away their gala casino promo code; we’ll be tossing away the bleedin’ World Cup plus our self-respect! This might sound a bit dramatic, but if England don’t do well in this tournament then all the pain would have been for diddly squat.

Because so much is riding on tomorrow’s game, I think we can safely say that the World Cup finally begins tomorrow. We’ll have context, drama, plus a compelling narrative: the fact we’re playing Australia is a script-writer’s dream. Can the old enemy fatally derail England’s World Cup on home soil at the home of cricket? Although we’ll still have a chance of qualifying for the semis if we lose tomorrow, we’ll need to beat both India and New Zealand under the most intense pressure imaginable. And both teams will be doing their utmost to put the favourites out in a consequence free environment. After all, they’ll already be through by then.

On top of everything we’ve got the Smith and Warner sub-plot. The two pantomime villains of world cricket are sure to get a mixed reception tomorrow – I notice that Eoin Morgan hasn’t exactly discouraged fans from booing our key adversaries – and I’m sure they’d like nothing better than to get the last laugh. I’m sorry to say it, folks, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Bull or the Ginger Rodent come up trumps tomorrow with big centuries. They’ve pooped our party before, and they can do it again.

I just hope the toss doesn’t become a crucial factor tomorrow. There was heavy rain in London today and storms are expected to continue overnight. I bet that pitch is getting pretty sweaty under the covers. Although Lord’s has state-of-the-art drainage, I expect the ball to move around a bit in the first hour. It’s also set to be humid.

If we do lose the toss, and Smith decides the conditions warrant an insertion (if all things were even I’d expect him to ask England to chase), then our tournament could be derailed within the hour. We’ve seen our top order, which is big on fire power but not necessarily first rate in terms of patience and technique, capitulate at Lord’s in the recent past. Remember when South Africa reduced us to 20-6 in 2017? I’d expect Starc, Cummins and Co to present just as much of challenge as Rabada, Parnell, and Morkel did that day.

On the other hand, if England win a crucial toss, then we finally have the fire power to do some damage ourselves. The prospect of a fired-up Archer and Wood steaming into Warner and Smith in helpful conditions is an extremely appetising one indeed. Maybe England could be the beneficiaries of a great toss to win?

I’ll certainly be nervous tomorrow and I expect the players will be ultra-nervous. Those defeats to Pakistan and Sri Lanka just weren’t good enough. Had we won those games we could have strolled into Lord’s relaxed, full of confidence, and in the perfect frame of mind to play our attack style of cricket. But can we still play like millionaires when the pressure becomes excruciating?

I guess we’re about to find out.

James Morgan

Written in collaboration with BR Agency

28 comments

  • Think they will be playing on yesterday’s wicket.
    Carry seemed ok yesterday morning and there was some turn even for their dart bowler.
    Wahab got some reverse late in the innings but few areas available to rough it up on.
    It was windy and cool.
    Shortish boundary on the Grandstand side.

  • Smith won’t decide what to do if they win the toss because Finch is captain! And a good job he’s been doing too….

    Several teams have been suckered into putting the opposition in – but chasing any sort of decent total has proved very difficult in the tournament so far (only Bangladesh have done it and WI were absolutely awful that day). Could be the proverbial good toss to lose.

    Australia are being puffed into a better team than they are. They’re managing to lack depth in batting and bowling at the same time. Their openers have to fail somewhen and Khawaja + Smith looks one too many middle order chugger. The support bowling looks mediocre, especially the spinners. India beat them comfortably. This is not one of the great Australian ODI teams like the ones in the 1990s and 2000s.

    • As a Kiwi, cant see England losing to this Australian side – Aus’s best players are brilliant but once you see them off (batting and bowling), if you can, the next level are not doing much at the moment. Be different if they had brought Hazlewood along.

      But, Pakistan and Sri Lanka were even poorer ….

      (And I see NZ having the exact same problem of lack of depth as Australia).

    • Smith not captain? When did that happen … did he do something wrong? ;-) apologies for the brain fart.

      • Everything is so much scarier without J J Roy Esq, late of this Parrish. It isn’t that England depend on him it’s that they benefit so much from him even being there – by making bowlers worried about their lengths from ball one. A couple of Roy overs to begin with and the opposition already have to go to plan be.

        Whether this takes the pressure off Bairstow or imposes a challenge he feels he has to match, I don’t have the first idea but England without Roy are way less of a threat.

        Is this though what makes a team worthy? I’m not sure that anyone signed up to The Full Toss or anything similar gives a kipper given how long we’ve all waited. Worthiness can wait until 2023.

        A World Cup where England win 9/9, India 8/9, Australia 7/9 and NZ 6/9 would have been a very dull affair indeed. So tomorrow is a testament to that: the absence of dullness. Shame it’s always England that all the drama is about.

  • Smith’s hair is a sort of sandy colour isn’t it. Appropriate. IIRC the pitch the other day seemed to get a bit slow as the game went on. I take your point about the first hour but chasing under pressure will not be easy. I think we should probably bat first.

    • It’s ginger. Trust me. The blonde highlights try to disguise it but I’m not buying. The only debate is what sort of rodent he is ;-)

  • Atherton made a good point after our careless defeat to an average Sri Lanka. When you are playing an ODI series before or after test matches the results do not really matter that much, they are more an entertainment for the fans before of after the real thing. Often different players are used who will not feature in the tests, so a defeat wouldn’t necessarily have much bearing on the bigger picture. When the World Cup is at stake things change and although we can lose against the Aussies and still have our destiny in our own hands there is no bigger picture, for once ODIs are the whole thing. As this only happens once every four years the pressure to win is something most players are not used to, especially as this England side are favourites, something that has never happened before. Personally I don’t believe we will wilt under this, as there seems to be an almost arrogant self confidence within the team, but we need to accept that there are going to be times when discretion is the better part of valour. Keep the ball on the ground a while.
    One thing to note is both India and New Zealand have shown almost as much vulnerability, it’s just that when they underperform they still seem to come up with an ugly win. Yes we have beaten them all recently, but in rather inconsequential tournaments. The one thing we can be sure of tomorrow is that the Aussies will be up for it, especially Warner and Smith, who will no doubt get hostile receptions.
    Unless we can channel our aggressive instincts with more thought we could well be pipped at the post by lesser teams who with better spin attacks have been able to adapt to the rather stodgy conditions that are dominating the competition, largely due to the last few weeks of rain throughout the country. Acccumulatuon and not hitting over the top through the line is the preferrred option. Apart from Root have we the batsmen capable of restraining themselves and adapting to conditions. The Sri Lanka defeat does not fill your average England fan with much confidence.

    • Good piece Mark, but I’m not convinced we have batsman who want to adapt to the conditions because of the attack mindset. Moen, Archer, Woakes and Rashid didn’t seem to understand that their job was to give the strike to Stokes, they weren’t in a rush situation. I’m not sure what the captain of coach are saying to them, if anything. We don’t have a Plan B. And Bairstow is beginning to look like a lost soul without Roy, that blistering start partnership is just not their. By the look of the weather though looking like a shortened game today, so anything could happen.

  • The team have been trained to bat in one way – to express themselves. It was always a dangerous formula. Preparing normal wickets was abandoned. It was all about entertainment demanded by a governing body with the mindset of a carpet bagger. I really hope England win but there is no divine right because you’ve been blasting high totals on very obliging pitches. Let’s be honest there were also fans who wanted a sixes paradise. Cricket will bite back. England batsmen have got to earn their victories. There’s no glory otherwise. By the way it hasn’t been raining for weeks all over the country. It has been very dry in the North East. Dry winter and dry spring. The rain was desperately needed. Pity though it’s fallen on the World Cup!

  • Given the appalling weather forecast I would imagine that both teams will be content with a point a piece.

    • Is it cowardly to pray for rain? Now where have I heard that phrase before :-)

      BBC forecast looks ok, and Lord’s has the best drainage in the country. I think we’ll see a result. I hope! I’ll be there.

  • It’s looking very ominous for England at the moment with Australia 116 not out after 22 overs and Finch and Warner having already both scored half centuries.

  • Going well so far ..

    Lol

    Vince exposed

    Root showing he isn’t that good vs the moving ball as anyone sensible says (hence why he’s not a 1/2/3)

    Morgan… yeah, whit ball biffer.. shown up

    See what the rest do

    • All going according to plan (if you’re an Australian) I’d say. My fears about the pitch appear to be correct.

  • One thing to smash sixes on a flat track against Afghanistan another toy do the same against Starc and friends. Can’t see England beating India, it will all come down to the NZ game

  • Poor flat track show ponies

    Anyway, they’ll be some behind the scenes stuff now to prepare some roads to suit this show ponie side

    World class.. lol

    Just think, half this side is our test side!!!! They literally can’t adapt.

    Fair play to stokes given I give him stick.. batted well

  • This lot look like Flat track bullies – it’s all very well everyone hyping them up, they’re not supposed to actually believe it before they’ve won everything. Moeen Ali 5 days ago talking about how they all knew how great they were. Don’t look so great right now. Arrogance is all over the test side, and it seems to have crept into the ODI side as well. All his fans get so angry but I genuinely am amazed that Moeen has 100 ODI’s – he’s a non-threatening bowler and abysmal batsman, he’s no better than Michael Yardy

  • Australia were by far the better side today, and still didn’t hit their batting peak. Finch is a good captain, the way he rotates the bowlers and clearly has plans for each batsman.
    My heart sank when Morgan won the toss and put the Aussies in. It wouldn’t have been easy batting first, but there wouldn’t be that pressure of chasing. Woakes seems to have bowled well without much luck today.
    My heart sank again when Root was out, seemingly to a genuinely good ball. I knew then that we wouldn’t get to 286, sad to say. Vince, Bairstow, Morgan and Buttler were all out to poor shots, the same mistakes which were made against Sri Lanka. I can imagine that Australia might almost be embarrassed at how easy it was for them in the end.
    For the first time in four years at home, we have lost two consecutive ODIs. The confidence seems to have been shattered by the loss to Sri Lanka, and many England fans will not have been confident about today’s game. Stokes alone tried to adapt to the situation and it really needed Buttler to stay with him for longer, after Buttler had made a positive start. They just aren’t learning from their mistakes. Australia meanwhile are peaking at the right time and have perhaps found their best starting 11. Behrendorff deserved Man of the Match.
    Can England fans honestly see us beating impressive India (who came through their tight game v Afghanistan) and classy NZ (who won all three of their close games v Bangladesh, South Africa and Windies)? Both Kohli and Williamson will surely bat first if they win the toss. If he is fit enough, Roy might have to play at Edgbaston. Bairstow seems to be struggling without him. I thought they might have picked Plunkett today and it is a shame that the talented Curran has played no part in any of the games thus far.
    So much has gone into trying to build an England team that could try to win a World Cup at last, and yet it is all unravelling the moment the team has been put under pressure and shown its inability to adapt to different pitches and match situations. I didn’t believe we could win before it all started, reckoning India were the team to beat, closely followed by Australia. However, I had hoped we could at least make the last four. Whilst it is still mathematically possible, I just cannot see us winning both games, and Pakistan or Sri Lanka or Bangladesh are waiting to pounce on that fourth spot.
    Can I also say that I didn’t like Morgan’s comments about booing Smith and Warner ? It will have fired them up even more.
    Our team has some genuinely talented players but why can they not perform under pressure ? What is it in their psychological make-up that makes them wilt under pressure where teams like Australia seem to flourish ? What does Bayliss actually do, given that we know he never bothers to watch county cricket ?
    Stokes emerges with credit from the last two games. I can forgive Root a failure, he cannot make 80 to 100 + every single time. Morgan, Bairstow and Buttler shots especially frustrating today.
    Oh the endless agony of being an England fan!

    • Yes agree Alex. When you win a 5 match OD I series there is little pressure because in 5 minutes everyone has forgotten about it. The World Cup on the other hand is a huge major tournament every 4 years, we can’t handle the pressure and just buckle. The Aussies, New Zealanders and others have a different mind set and live in more competitive, less PC wishy washy societies than us. Sorry but it’s true, I know I’ve lived there. We don’t know how to win under pressure situations. We have some good players yes, but the Aussies are just so much better at it on the big stage.

      • Very interesting, Doug. Have never even visited Aus or NZ, would love to go one day but cannot afford it. Both countries do exceptionally well at sport internationally given their small populations. NZ seem to go about winning in a more likeable manner, but one has to admire the Aussie success too across many sports. If England are beaten in the next two games, I would love NZ to win, although my pre-tournament pick was India.
        What is so galling is the amount of ECB resources that has gone into building this allegedly top ranked England side into potential World Cup winners, seemingly at the expense of the Test and county game and grassroots. The ECB blazered farts and marketing men have got a lot to answer for.

  • Think it can’t get any worse? Both Stokes (leg) and Archer (side) were visibly carrying injuries. The former is now bowling very little compared to the workload Botham and Flintoff used to shoulder. The latter feels like the new toy they played with until they’ve broken him.

    Entirely unconnected, let’s consider England’s schedule. England played more ODIs since the last WC than anyone else. Six of the seven players to play most ODIs are English. This was of course so the players could “learn their roles” and not to fill up the TV screens of the ECB’s ‘strategic partners’. Starc only played about 40 ODIs in the last four years (95 players across the world played more) but somehow he knew his role as a bowler was to get batsmen out. Australia’s management of their fast bowlers isn’t above some criticism but they had their big players fit when it mattered.

    England’s “learning their roles” has become an inflexibility geared to a game plan that suits some conditions but not others. The seamers are drilled to back-of-a-length to keep runs down on roads. They couldn’t adjust to pitch it up when conditions were crying out for it. Bringing in Plunkett wouldn’t have helped because he bowls the same way (Willey was the squad member nearest to what England needed – but there were justifiied real doubts about his quality). The fact that Morgan and Farbrace were both in the media denying what anyone could see makes England look like more like some sort of brainwashed cult than a sports’ team.

    • I agree with pretty much all you (and others here) say. In a way it’s almost funny that the ECB has sacrificed the cricket structure of the country for an illusion. We would certainly be laughing if Cricket Australia had done the same!.

      I suppose the equation is simple now. Win the next 4 games or forget it but I fear the team is low on confidence (so stupid shots are more likely-ask Moeen).

  • Two things being bandied about are the nature of the pitches and the absence of Roy.

    People seem to be forgetting England lost to Pakistan on a road and with Roy playing (don’t blame them – it feels like that was months ago). Are we really brimming with confidence that Roy could have played Starc yesterday? These points only apply to the SL game.

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